Attorneys general in several states are taking action on bank officers who allegedly processed thousands of foreclosures each month without reviewing the work and then signed affidavits attesting to the necessity of the foreclosures.
Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray said his state, one of 23 which requires affidavits by bank officers, is seeking a moratorium on foreclosures "tainted" by “robosigners” – a bank officer who under oath attests personal knowledge of the foreclosure review but who does not have that knowledge. He said he also wants financial relief for consumers and penalties against violators.
So far, the Ohio attorney general has filed suit against GMAC, parent company Ally mortgage and an individual alleged to be a robosigner. Other lenders, including Bank of America, which has admitted problems, JP Morgan, Citibank and Wells Fargo, which are suspected of the practice, are also being asked to provide information.
"What we do know is that people have filed affidavits with the court, they swear that they have personal knowledge of the facts that are attested therein. Those are the facts in which the court is depriving people of their private property. That all is supposed to be done carefully and properly under the law in this country," Cordray told Fox News.
Cordray said he would fine banks $25,000 for every mortgage at issue, which could be hundreds or even thousands of mortgages.
As the recession drags on and banks are faced with more and more defaults, some have admitted to getting sloppy. On Friday. Bank of America announced that it would impose a moratorium on foreclosures in all 50 states until it reviews its processes.
"Our ongoing assessment shows the basis for foreclosure decisions is accurate. We continue to serve the interests of our customers, investors and communities. Providing solutions for distressed homeowners remains our primary focus," said a BofA spokesman in a statement.
PNC Financial says it too it is halting many of its foreclosures in 23 states.
Forty attorneys general are now pursuing a freeze on foreclosures, which has the potential to create chaos for the housing market, banks and the economy. Those not paying their mortgages also take income from investors such as pension funds so the freeze could hit seniors as well.
But some warn that doesn't mean the foreclosures are unwarranted.
"This is very serious. But it is being played with as a political football by people who are trying to gain political advantage from it," said Peter Wallison a financial policy studies fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. "This is a serious problem. But it's only a technical problem. It is not a fraud by the banks."
Wallison said until the foreclosure crisis is resolved, an overall housing recovery is impossible. And without a housing recovery, he warned, an economic recovery won't be possible either.
Fox News' Jim Angle contributed to this report.